By Kevin J Jones
Three more hostages from an Ohio-based Christian group were released in Haiti, leaving 12 captives of the 400 Mawozo gang. The gang previously kidnapped and released a group of 10 Catholics, including priests and religious.
“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a Dec. 6 statement. The group said they are not able to provide names of those released or any other details.
Seventeen missionaries and family members with Christian Aid Ministries were kidnapped by 400 Mawozo Oct. 16, when they were working at an orphanage in Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
“As announced on Friday, we would like to focus the next three days on praying and fasting for the hostages,” the Christian group said. “Please continue to intercede for those who are still being held as well as those who have been released. We long for all the hostages to be reunited with their loved ones.”
The initial group of hostages ranged in age from 8 months to 48 years. Of the 17 hostages, 16 were American citizens and one was Canadian. The missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and the Canadian province of Ontario.
On Nov. 21, Christian Aid Ministries announced the release of two of the captives.
The ringleader behind the kidnappings, gang leader Wilson Joseph, had initially threatened to kill the hostages unless he received his demands, in a video posted online in October. The gang had sought a $1 million ransom for each hostage. It was not clear whether this ransom applied to the five children, the Associated Press reported.
Other observers saw this demand as an opening for negotiations, the New York Times said. It is not clear if any ransom money has been paid so far.
The 400 Mawozo gang is the same criminal gang behind the April 2021 kidnapping of 10 Catholics, including priests and nuns. All of those kidnapped in April were released within several weeks. Ransom was paid for just two of the kidnapped priests, according to a Haitian official.
Christian Aid Ministries on its website says it aims to be “a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world.” It supports aid and anti-poverty efforts in countries such as Haiti and Kazakhstan, but also promotes billboard evangelism in the United States and advertises assistance for any conscientious objectors in the event of a U.S military draft.
The abductions come at a time of major political and economic crises for Haiti. Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July, and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed 2,200 people in mid-August. The country also faces a major fuel shortage, the Associated Press reports. Port-au-Prince has seen a wave of kidnappings and the rise of criminal gangs, and more gang conflict is threatened.
On Dec. 5 a gang leader Ti Lapli released a video message warning people to avoid passing through the capital’s Martissant section, an area which has suffered from violent gang clashes. Ti Lapli said the people of Martissant should stock up on supplies.
“The next few days will be difficult… We will not remain with our arms crossed in face of those who try to destroy us,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
In April, the Catholic Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince warned that gang violence had reached “unprecedented” levels. In September, 70-year-old priest Father André Sylvestre was shot to death by several gunmen on motorcycles outside of a bank. The gunmen did not take the money he carried.
(SOURCE: CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)